Syrian gov’t ready to cooperate with Turkey if it withdraws from Syria

Damascus says it could cooperate with Ankara if Turkey stops violating the 1998 Adana Agreement and withdraws from Syria, pro-government news agency SANA reported on Saturday.

Ankara, since 2011, through its support for terrorism “through financing, training, and facilitating the passage of terrorists into Syria,”  has violated the Adana Agreement, the agency quoted a Syrian Foreign Ministry official as saying.

The 1998 Agreement was thrust into the spotlight after it was brought up by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a tool to remove Turkey’s security concerns in Syria during a joint conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday in Moscow. 

In the Adana agreement, the Syrian government pledged to prohibit on Syrian soil the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984. The agreement also allowed Turkey to use force against the PKK in Syria, should the Syrian government be incapable of fulfilling its promise.

 Since August 2016, Turkish-backed rebel forces and the Turkish Armed Forces have taken over large tracts of territory in northern Syria with the latest operation leading to the takeover of the Kurdish canton of Afrin  in March 2018, the agency said, noting that Ankara has also maintained military presence in Idlib since October 2017.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry official told SANA that Turkey is “occupying Syrian territories through the terrorist organizations affiliated to it or through the Turkish military forces directly,’’ and that the Adana Agreement could only be fulfilled if “the situation on the borders [returns to] the way it used to be.”

On Friday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Adana agreement gives Ankara the right to enter Syrian territory, following Putin’s statement on Wednesday that that the 1998 treaty constituted a legal framework to ensure Turkey’s security on its southern borders. 

On Jan. 14, US President Donald Trump tweeted that a 20-mile “safe zone” would be created in northeastern Syria with Turkey’s. Erdoğan saying that Turkey could set up such a safe zone some 30 kilometers deep into northeastern Syria in coordination with the US. Damascus has rejected Turkey’s plans.